Once you learn how helpful digestive enzymes can be for human health, you won’t be surprised that they can do wonders for your furry friends too. Just like for humans, digestive enzymes for dogs act as catalysts and speed up specific, life-preserving chemical reactions in the body. They also play a crucial role in nutrient absorption.
If a dog consumed food in the wild like its ancestors, its diet would be loaded with beneficial enzymes. But today, most commercial dry or canned dog foods lack enzymes. It’s even possible that your dog is struggling with gastrointestinal problems as a result of a diet that lacks in enzymes.
If you’re now wondering, what can I feed my dog with gastrointestinal problems? You may want to speak to your veterinarian about food allergy testing, changing your dog’s diet, as well trying digestive enzymes for dogs or digestive enzymes and probiotics for dogs.
Dogs known to to benefit from enzymes include those that are older (and therefore have less enzymes in their bodies), have food allergies/intolerances or those that struggle with digestive problems.
Best Digestive Enzymes for Dogs
What helps a dog’s digestive system? Many things can, and digestive enzymes are high on that list. What are digestive enzymes for dogs? Enzymes can be found in foods as well as the digestive organs of dogs. Digestive enzymes for dogs are also available in supplement form.
- Protease — The enzyme responsible for breaking down proteins into shorter fragments called peptides and eventually into their components, amino acids.
- Amylase — A digestive enzyme that breaks down the starch in food into smaller carbohydrate molecules
- Lipase — An enzyme mainly produced by the pancreas that helps the body break down and digest dietary fats.
- Cellulase — An enzyme that does not exist in a dog’s digestive system but is essential for the breakdown of fiber, such as those from grains and plant material.
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes for Dogs
Every dog requires digestive enzymes to break down what it eats into absorbable nutrients. In a healthy dog without any health issues, its body should produce the enzymes it needs — thus, supplements are not a must. In other cases, digestive enzymes can be an extremely helpful addition to a dog’s diet.
Potential benefits of digestive enzymes for dogs may include:
- Better vitamin and mineral absorption from food
- Improvement of digestive problems, like gas, bloating and constipation
- Reduction of food sensitivities
- Improvement in joint health/movement
- Support of normal body weight without cravings or hunger
- Immune system support
- Reduction in excessive shedding
- Less skin irritations
- Promotion of respiratory well-being
- Helps promote normal cell growth
- Supports healthy teeth and gums
Why Dogs Need Digestive Enzymes
You may be wondering, how do I know if my dog needs digestive enzymes? To help you figure that out, let’s look at some of the dogs that are good candidates for enzyme supplementation.
If your dog fits into one or more of the following categories, it may benefit from taking digestive enzymes:
- A dog with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and/or pancreatitis (the second most common cause of EPI in dogs is chronic inflammation of the pancreas, which is known as pancreatitis)
- An older dog (older dogs produce fewer enzymes)
- A dog with a digestive disorder
- A dog that has food allergies or food intolerances
How do you know if your dog has digestive problems? If your dog frequently experiences gas, diarrhea, soft stools and/or stools that contain a lot of mucus, he or she may be in need of digestive enzymes.
You may also find that digestive enzymes are helpful if your furry friend has a tendency to eat the feces of other animals or its own. This habit can be due to a dog looking for additional nutrients so, by taking digestive enzymes, your dog may be less likely eat its own or another animal’s stools.
Some dogs have an exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), which means that the pancreas cannot produce enzymes. According to petMD:
EPI may cause digestive problems, malnutrition, and/or improper absorption of nutrients into the body, which can contribute to an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. Symptoms may include chronic diarrhea; weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite; frequent or greater volume of stool and gas; and coprophagia, a condition which causes an animal to eat its own stool.
Dogs with EPI typically require prescription-strength digestive enzyme supplements for dogs in order to survive. Digestive enzymes for dogs with pancreatitis are also much stronger.
What to Look for in Digestive Enzymes for Dogs
According to Dr. Jean Hofve, holistic veterinarian, DVM, the best digestive enzymes for dogs “come from plants or fungi (yeast), because they can survive the trip through the stomach’s seriously acidic environment (however, some pets do better on pancreatic extracts). Make sure the enzymes you choose contain at least protease, lipase, and amylase (many also contain cellulase, which is a bonus if the food contains fibrous vegetables or grains).”
Just like with human enzyme supplements, some pet enzyme supplements use animal sources, but there are also plenty of options of vegetarian digestive enzymes for dogs. If you’re comparing the benefits of digestive enzymes vs. probiotics for dogs, you may be happy to find out that there are supplements with both probiotics and digestive enzymes for dogs so your pet can reap the benefits of both in one supplement.
When looking for digestive enzymes for dogs with EPI, a higher strength product is needed. In general, speak with your veterinarian about the best product for your dog’s individual needs. Reading digestive enzymes for dogs reviews may also help you figure out the best product for your dog.
How to Give Dogs Digestive Enzymes
How can I add digestive enzymes to my dog’s diet? Products typically include instructions on how to add digestive enzymes to dog food. Many digestive enzyme supplements for pets are available in powdered form so it’s very easy to add them to wet or dry food. If you’re combining with dry food, the addition of a little water can be helpful.
Digestive enzymes become deactivated (and hence ineffective) by temperatures above about 120 degrees Fahrenheit so you should never add enzymes to hot food or heat food up after adding enzymes.
Always ready product labels carefully, and check with your vet about the proper dosage of digestive enzymes for your dog.
What are the side effects of digestive enzymes? Digestive enzymes for dogs side effects, especially if enzymes are given in excess, can include gas, loose stools, discomfort after eating or vomiting.
Stop giving your dog enzymes and speak to your vet if any of these unwanted side effects occur. You may simply need to switch to a different enzyme supplement.
It is not recommended to give your dog digestive enzymes meant for humans.